Ford teams up on feature to track cops’ driving habits

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is helping develop technology that can track in real time how fast police officers are driving, when they turn on their lights, if they’re wearing their seat belt and other information about their driving patterns.

The Dearborn automaker, in partnership with California-based technology company Telogis, debuted its telematics feature on its Ford Police Interceptor vehicles this week in a move to improve safety and increase police transparency. The hope is police agencies use the feature to monitor their cops and have detailed records of their driving patterns in case of a crash.

“Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of officer fatalities, and even the slightest improvements in driver training and behavior within law enforcement organizations can potentially save lives,” Bill Frykman, Ford’s manager of business and product development, said in a statement. “Whether in emergency operation or not, vehicle data from this technology, in context with different driving situations will help illustrate to police organizations where changes can be made that will have a profound effect on officer safety.”

The technology is meant to serve as a safety tool, but could also crack down on minor infractions, such as cops speeding or turning on their flashers to run through a red light when they’re not on a chase.

The Los Angeles Police Department is rolling out the technology on its vehicles, and the feature will be made available to other police agencies in early 2015, a Telogis spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“We have a responsibility to the communities we serve and to our fellow officers to make safety behind the wheel one of our top priorities,” said Vartan Yegiyan, director of police transportation and commanding officer, Los Angeles Police Department. “The collaborative process that exists with the LAPD, Ford and Telogis has allowed us to customize this solution to meet the unique demands of our organization and other Ford police fleets.”

The telematics feature uses a device mounted underneath the dashboard to track vehicle lateral acceleration, spins, yaw rates, pursuit mode, accelerator pedal position, brake pedal position, engine torque, anti-lock braking system actuation, and stability control and traction control. Police agencies that use the technology could get individual score cards for each officer’s performance.

The data is secured between the vehicle and the individual police agencies that use it. Ford has no way to access the data, a spokesman said.

Ford has offered the telematics feature on commercial fleet vehicles since 2009, but about a year ago they began working with Telogis to apply the technology to the police field.

“It’s proven, it’s out in the marketplace today,” Frykman said in an interview. “We’ve developed a unique application for officers.”

According to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, from 2004 to 2013, an average of 64 officers a year died in traffic-related incidents, compared to 55 a year who were killed in firearms-related incidents.

“Traffic-related incidents have been the leading cause of law enforcement fatalities in 14 of the last 16 years,” Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. “Leveraging technology to improve law enforcement vehicle safety is integral to reducing the number of officers killed in traffic-related incidents each year.”

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